Booking Your Round the World Ticket
What is a Round the World Ticket?
Round the world tickets (commonly shortened to ‘RTW tickets’) offer a relatively easy way of traveling around the world. Typically, these tickets allow you to travel either East or West around the entire world (until you’re back where you started), making a certain amount of stops along the way.
They’re generally either valid for a certain amount of time (i.e. 12 months) or limit you to flying a certain number of miles (such as 29,000), although some tickets have restrictions on both.
For those unaccustomed to long-term traveling that want to travel the world, they’re perfect because they take a lot of the hassle and stress out of organizing and preparing specific flights.
Another great thing about them is that they often allow you to have flexible travel dates (meaning you don’t have to book every single flight before you leave). For example, you might want to stay and extra 6 weeks in Sydney, despite your flight out being booked for two weeks time. With most ‘normal’ flights, this would be a hassle to change, and although possible it would almost certainly cost you heavily to change it. Note that not all RTW tickets allow you to change the dates of your flights for free, so be sure to check before booking.
Round the world ticket prices have never been lower, so now is a great time to travel, and the fact that airlines have now banded together means that it’s easier than ever to navigate the globe and have the experience of a lifetime.
There are essentially two types of round the world tickets that you can get: standard and tailor-made. Standard RTW tickets have popular, pre-designed routes already set out for you. A standard example of such a route would be London-Singapore-Sydney-Los Angeles-London. There’s nothing wrong with these, as they’ll often visit most of the places a traveler would want to visit, but if you’ve got a burning desire to go somewhere that’s not on the pre-designed route you’ll have to get a tailor-made ticket instead. Tailor-made tickets, as the name suggests, let you chose exactly which destinations you want to visit. The only real downside of them is that they’re more expensive than their ‘standard’ counterparts.
Thing You Need to Look Out For
If you want a non-stop flight (i.e. a single flight from point A to point B, instead of having to connect somewhere), you’ll have to specify this when booking. Many people confuse ‘direct’ flights and ‘non-stop’ flights as being the same thing. In fact, a ‘direct’ flight is one where you don’t change planes. This means that you can stop multiple times on the way, but as long as you don’t technically change planes, it’s still classes as a ‘direct’ flight!
Quite often cheap flight deals can be more expensive in the long run, as there can be lots of ‘hidden’ charges that you’ll incur along the way. For example, making more than a certain number of stopovers on your trip will often incur a charge. Again, before booking your ticket find out if this will apply to your trip or not.
Remember that flying isn’t the only way to travel, and that it can be a good idea to factor overland travel into your plan (especially if you’re visiting South-East Asia, where it’s easy to travel between the countries via buses and ferries).
If you’re planning on going to a region where there are lots of countries clustered together (such as there is in South-East Asia), it’s a good idea to book your flight in to one country and out of another. For example, you might fly in to Singapore, travel up (overland) through Malaysia and into Thailand, explore the local area than fly out of Bangkok. It’s important to remember that 99% of the time overland (also known as ‘surface’) travel won’t be included in the price of your RTW ticket, so be sure to budget accordingly for the inevitable costs of buses/trains/boats.
The Time Limit on Your RTW Ticket
You’ll find that most RTW tickets are valid for ONE YEAR, although that is not always the case, so be sure to enquire when booking. If you think your trip will go on for longer than 12 months (such as 18 months), then longer tickets are available, but usually at a higher cost. Because of this, it’s a good idea to have a rough travel itinerary planned before you get round to booking your ticket, as you’ll have some idea of how long you’re going to be away for.
How Much Does a RTW Ticket Cost?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one standard price for tickets. The cost will generally be affected by the time of year you’re traveling, and the places (and the amount of places) you’re visiting. In addition to this, different airlines/alliances will have their own rates. In my experience, however, I’ve found that most round the world ticket prices will generally be between $1300 and $2300.
As a general rule, the more stopovers you have, the more expensive your ticket will be. Also, as I mentioned before, the time of year that you travel to various places will affect the cost. Because of this, the cost of flying East to West is often different to flying West to East, depending on where you’ll be at specific times of the year, so it makes sense to try out both ways when booking your trip (if it’s all the same to you).
It should also be noted that visiting South American or African countries will significantly bump up the cost.
Airline Alliances – The Global Traveler’s Dream
Because there are so many different airports in the world, the chances that a single airline company will fly to all of the destinations that you want are slim (unless you’re only making a few stops at major destinations).
Because of this, lots of airlines have joined up into various alliances with each other, meaning that if one particular airline doesn’t fly where you want to go, one of their partner airlines (who do fly there) will take you there instead.
Two of the largest alliances around are Star Alliance and the Oneworld Alliance. The Oneworld Alliance, for example, includes British Airways, Quantas (who cover Australia), LAN (who cover South America) and is responsible for thousands of flights every day.
When you book an around the world ticket, booking it with an alliance means you can use their partners and travel to almost any part of the world with one ticket.
After You’ve Booked Your Ticket
Once you’ve taken the plunge and booked your ticket, wait a few days then phone the airline you booked with to double-check that they received your booking and have it on their system. This is just a precaution, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
When you receive your ticket (whether it’s a physical ticket or confirmation of your e-ticket), look for the ‘status’ box on it and check that it’s marked as ‘OK’ (or something of that nature). If it isn’t, it means that your seat on the flight might not be confirmed, and that it is only provisional, so call them up to double-check (and to confirm it).
In addition to checking the status box, check that all of the other details on the ticket are correct. This includes the flight times and dates and the destinations (both to and from). The last thing you want to do is turn up at the airport full of enthusiasm only to find that you don’t have a seat on the plane.
As a general rule throughout your trip, it’s always a good idea to call up the airline and confirm your flight 72 hours before you’re set to fly. If you find yourself in a foreign country where you don’t speak the local language, ask the staff at your hostel to call them up for you (as it’s usually a simple task that shouldn’t take long at all).
The Most Popular Round the World Tickets on the Market
Which airlines can I fly with? American Airlines, British Airways, Air Pacific, Aer Lingus, Alaska Airlines, Gulf Air, Iberia, JAL Japan Airlines, LAN, Mexicana, Qantas and more!
The Global Explorer ticket is great for those that want to explore Africa, the Middle East, South America, and Asia (including India). They also have great coverage of the more popular regions, such as Europe, Australia & New Zealand, the South West Pacific (Fiji, the Cook Islands) and North America.
Which airlines can I fly with? British Airways, American Airlines, LAN, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and more!
An alternative to the ‘Global Explorer’ ticket above. Instead of being restricted by mileage (as most tickets are), the Oneworld Explorer ticket is instead restricted by ‘zones’ (i.e. different regions), making it ideal for trips where you’ll be flying to some of the more ‘out of the way’ places, and for trips that will have lots of different stopovers.
The World Walkabout Ticket
Which airlines can I fly with? British Airways, Air Pacific, Qantas.
The World Walkabout ticket is one of the cheapest RTW tickets around, and comes highly recommended. Perhaps the most popular round the world ticket on the market at the moment, the World Walkabout ticket allows for a total of 6 stops, and is great for travelers who want to visit Australia or New Zealand (or both), as a stop in one (or both) of these places is compulsory.
Common stopovers along the way include South-East Asia (Singapore, Bangkok), North America (Los Angeles, New York), Europe (London), South Africa (Johannesburg) and the South Pacific (Fiji).
Which airlines can I fly with? United Airlines, US Airways, Air Canada, Air China, Shanghai Airlines, Air New Zealand, BMI, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, TAP Air Portugal, Spanair, and more!
The price of the Star Alliance ticket is based primarily on your mileage (i.e. how far you travel) and NOT on the number of different stops that you take along the way, meaning some tickets allow for up to 15 stops! Note that overland travel will count towards your total mileage, so keep that in mind.
Which airlines can I fly with? Air New Zealand.
Air New Zealand boasts the fact that they’re the ONLY airline that can fly you around the entire world – no alliance needed for this lot! The standard route with this ticket is (when starting in the UK) London-Hong Kong/Beijing/Tokyo-New Zealand/Australia-Los Angeles-London (possibly via New York).
Or why not just build your own tailor-made trip? These can be done easily online, and although they’re more expensive than these standard tickets listed above, they allow you to go wherever your heart desires.
Money Isn’t Everything
While you should try and find the cheapest ticket possible (that lets you do all the things you want to do), your decision as to which ticket to choose shouldn’t be motivated solely by the cost. Always make sure that the airlines you’re booking with have good safety records (especially when flying to Vietnam, China and Russia), as some of the local airlines should be avoided. Your safety and health are far more important than the small amount of money it costs to upgrade to a better airline.
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